SPEAKER BIOS

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SEAN SUGGS

President, Toyota Mississippi

KEYNOTE ADDRESS

Thursday, June 11th - Keynote Speaker @ 1:30 - 1:50PM CST

Sean Suggs was named president at Toyota Mississippi in January 2018. Suggs is
responsible for all manufacturing and administration functions of Toyota’s Blue Springs
plant that produces the Corolla, Toyota’s highest volume selling vehicle in the world.
Prior to his promotion to president, Suggs served as vice president of manufacturing
from 2016 to 2017 and vice president of administration from 2014 to 2016 at the
Mississippi vehicle assembly plant.


Suggs’ automotive career began in 1998 at Toyota’s assembly plant in Princeton, Ind.
where he was hired as a Team Leader. During his 10-year tenure, he served several
roles and was named general manager of quality planning in 2008. In this leadership
role, Suggs oversaw professional development, vehicle quality and manufacturing
quality for current and new model production.


Prior to rejoining Toyota in 2014, Suggs served as director of strategy, administration
and human resources from 2011 to 2013 at Nissan’s North American headquarters in
Franklin, Tenn. During his five years with Nissan, he also directed production quality at
the company’s manufacturing and assembly plant in Canton, Miss. Additionally, Sean is
a military veteran, having served in the United States Army for eight years.


In addition to helping shape Toyota Mississippi’s future, Suggs is also building on the
advancement of the Toyota Way in the community through personal service. Suggs was
appointed by Mississippi House Speaker Phillip Gunn to the state Board of Education, a
nine-member board responsible for setting state education policies and standards, in
2017; he also serves on the Mississippi Economic Council’s executive committee; and
serves as a board member for the Mississippi Manufacturers Association. Suggs also
supports several other nonprofit and economic development boards in Northeast
Mississippi.


Suggs earned his Master of Business Administration degree from Auburn University in
2010 and a Bachelor of Science degree from Oakland City College in Oakland City, Ind.
in 2000.


Sean and his wife, Janet, reside in Saltillo, Miss., which places him close to his six
children and their families.

GENE WADDY

Co-Founder & CEO, DIVERSANT 

Management in the Age of COVID-19:  7 Tips on How to Deal with a Cashflow Crisis

Thursday, June 11th - Webinar Session @ 11:35 - 11:55AM CST

Gene C. Waddy is a visionary entrepreneur and owner of Alpha Business Solutions, a minority business enterprise that specializes in providing fully-managed payroll services, IC
compliance, and risk mitigation. Gene is also the co-founder of DIVERSANT LLC, the nation’s largest African-American owned IT staffing firm in the U.S. In many ways, both companies are a reflection of Gene’s professional expertise, personal drive, and his commitment to helping others. Gene shares his knowledge and expertise with other MBEs by serving as an active Board Member with the NYNJ Minority Supplier Development Council.

 

Gene is very active in many community service programs. Gene was named the 2013 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year New Jersey winner, as well as a past NJBIZ Executive of the Year Finalist. Gene was raised in New Jersey; Gene attended Fairleigh Dickinson University where he earned his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering.

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ERNIE COWART

Vice President, Economic Development Partnership of Alabama

POST-CORONAVIRUS: OUR FUTURE FORECAST FOR THE AUTOMOBILE & MOBILITY INDUSTRY

Thursday, June 11th - Webinar Session @ 12:00 - 12:25PM CST

Ernie joined EDPA in 2000 and has more than 20 years of experience in economic
development. He works in EDPA’s core business areas, including business information,
recruitment, community planning, entrepreneurial development and existing industry.
Ernie serves as EDPA’s liaison to the Department of Commerce and works with state
agencies, regional partners, utility companies and local economic development
organizations on recruitment and expansion projects. He has a B.A. from the University
of Alabama and a M.S. in Economic Development from the University of Southern
Mississippi. Ernie is active with the Economic Development Association of Alabama and
the International Economic Development Council and serves on the board of Main
Street Alabama.

ANDREA JACKSON

President, Millennium Steel Service

WHAT IT TAKES TO DO BUSINESS AS A TIER 1, 2, AND 3 SUPPLIER

Thursday, June 11th - Panel Session @ 12:30 - 01:00PM CST

With more than 40 years of experience as an accountant, leader and visionary, Andrea M. Jackson, along with her late husband Henry Jackson, worked to found an organization that is a pillar amongst minority business enterprises today. Andrea, working side-by-side with Henry, established Jackson Enterprises - a multi-industry holding company that delivers a variety of manufactured goods in the automotive, green energy services and hospitality industries. As Chairwoman and CEO of Jackson Enterprises, Andrea provides leadership and cultivates the vision she and Henry have for the organization - sharing responsibility through teamwork, mutual respect, empowerment and positive impact on the community through service, engagement and concern for the environment.

Andrea serves as President and Chairwoman for Millennium Steel Service (MSS) in Princeton, IN and Millennium Steel of Texas (MST) in San Antonio, TX. MSS was created in 2001 and MST created in 2004. Both companies provide steel processing, warehousing, and logistics services. Millennium Steel Service offers warehousing and supply-chain management, including inventory management and inspection services; slitting services; and IT system services. MSS serves automotive plants and parts makers.

In 2014, President Barack Obama visited MSS in Princeton, IN and highlighted the Steel plant for Manufacturing Day. President Obama's appearance highlighted the successful relationship Millennium Steel Service has with its customers.

For the last 18 years, Andrea has been at the helm of Synova Carpets, an automotive interior company and Jackson Enterprise entity, located in Old Fort, North Carolina. Established in 2001, the company grew and gained a reputation for manufacturing automotive carpets of exceptional standard and quality. Andrea has cultivated Synova to become a valuable segment of the Jackson Enterprise portfolio.

Andrea is a long-time volunteer in social, civic, and educational activities in the greater Lexington, Kentucky and University of Kentucky communities. She served on the planning committee to establish a two-year commemoration of the 50 year African American Legacy at UK, with activities lectures, symposiums, receptions, historical publications and special recognition of the African American trailblazers. In 1992 Andrea helped establish the Jamal Mashburn Endowed Scholarship Fund that is still in existence today. The scholarship covers full tuition for each year of successful academic performance in high school. In family, business and community, she is committed to contributing to the success of each. Andrea and Henry, both natives from Chicago, raised their three children in Lexington, Kentucky.

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JAVIER KUEHNLE

President, C.A. Spalding Company

WHAT IT TAKES TO DO BUSINESS AS A TIER 1, 2, AND 3 SUPPLIER

Thursday, June 11th - Panel Session @ 12:30 - 01:00PM CST

President and CEO - Spalding Automotive, Incorporated: Spalding Automotive has facilities in Mexico & U.S. and provides design, engineering and manufacturing services to the OEM and Tier I automotive industry.
 

President and CEO - C.A. Spalding Company: C.A. Spalding Company has facilities in Mexico & U.S. &; provides engineering and manufacturing services to the OEM and Tier I aerospace industry.
 

Board President – DiMedici Corporation: DiMedici Corporation owns and manages a portfolio of real estate for use by educational institutions.
 

Board President – Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School (PPACS): Philadelphia Performing Arts Charter School is a K-12 grade charter school with a curriculum based on the arts and sciences. PPACS currently has three locations in Philadelphia.

Majority owner of joint venture in Guadalajara Mexico: I formed and owned CAUSAMEX, a joint venture located in Guadalajara Mexico. The joint venture was between Spalding Automotive, Inc. and Empuja. Empuja is a Mexican company comprised of 5 Mexican investors.
CAUSAMEX was in existence for 11 years and provided engineering and manufacturing RTM composite components to the automotive, high performance bicycle, and sporting goods industries.

 

Member of the Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, MMSDC, CAMSC, PA/NJ/DE MSDC,

KIRK LEWIS

President, Blue Springs Metals | Georgetown Metal Processing | Madison Metal Processing

WHAT IT TAKES TO DO BUSINESS AS A TIER 1, 2, AND 3 SUPPLIER

Thursday, June 11th - Panel Session @ 12:30 - 01:00PM CST

Mr. Kirk J. Lewis is the Chairman and President of Blue Springs Metals, LLC, Georgetown Metal Processing, LLC and Madison Metal Processing, LLC. Blue Springs Metals is a supplier of steel products to the Automotive and the Oil and Gas Industry. Blue Springs is headquartered in Northeast Mississippi and has annual sales of $160 million. Georgetown Metal Processing is a supplier of aluminum and steel products to the automotive industry. Georgetown Metal Processing is headquartered in Northeast Mississippi with a plant in Northern Kentucky and has annual sales of $210 million. Madison Metal Processing is a supplier of steel products to the automotive Industry. Madison is headquartered in Alabama and will have annual sales of $100 million.
 

Previously, Mr. Lewis served as Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff for the City of Detroit, serving under Mayor Dave Bing. In this capacity, Mr. Lewis managed the day-to-day operations of all city departments including the Detroit Fire Department and the Detroit Police Department. Prior to his appointment to Deputy Mayor/Chief of Staff, Mr. Lewis served as Chief Governmental and Corporate Affairs Officer under Mayor Bing. In this position, Mr. Lewis acted as the Liaison for the City of Detroit to the corporate and philanthropic communities, all educational institutions, as well as the local, state and federal governmental entities. Additionally, Mr. Lewis was responsible for the City of Detroit's Department of Health and the Department of Human Services.
 

Mr. Lewis has more than 25 years of executive and financial management experience. He has been responsible for developing, reviewing, analyzing and implementing the strategic plans for various organizations. He brings a combination of operational and financial budgeting as well as creditor and union negotiation experience. In addition, he has significant experience in the implementation of financial and operational systems to improve company performance.

Mr. Lewis started his career as a staff accountant for one of the “big eight” accounting firms in 1984. He spent seven years in a finance and budgeting position for a major domestic automaker, in its credit arm, where he rapidly progressed through the organization. Mr. Lewis was initially hired as a municipal debt analyst and was responsible for analyzing project financing and municipal leases. He then became a registered investment professional for the credit arm of this same Automotive OEM. In this capacity, Mr. Lewis was responsible for the sale of commercial paper in the New York and New Jersey markets. During this time, he shared the responsibility for redesigning a new commercial paper issuance system. He was then assigned to long-term corporate debt, assisting in refinancing and structuring long and medium-term debt issuances. Mr. Lewis advanced to the role of a profit consolidator for the automobile maker’s credit arm. During his tenure, he communicated extensively with senior management regarding the development of the company's budget and budget variances.


Mr. Lewis then joined a Tier 1 Automotive Supplier, as the Director of Finance in 1994. He was later promoted to Chief Financial Officer and then became Chief Executive Officer and Partner. In addition, Mr. Lewis served as President of a joint-venture with a Global multi-billion dollar Tier-1 automotive supplier, where he was responsible for overseeing all of the sales, financial and manufacturing activities. During his time as President of this joint-venture, he oversaw a successful acquisition strategy that nearly doubled revenues over a three-year period. As an executive in the automotive industry, Mr. Lewis was also able to successfully navigate several industry-wide challenges. During a precipitous decline in automotive sales, he was responsible for restructuring the operations and finances of the Tier 1 automotive supplier where he served as the Chief Executive Officer. He led the negotiations with various creditor groups and negotiated concessions from the bargaining unit. He reduced the break-even point of the company by 20 percent by re-aligning the company's manufacturing operations. Mr. Lewis’ experience in detailed budget reviews with an emphasis on cash management, combined with an understanding of vendor and employee requirements enabled him to negotiate a successful restructuring transaction.
 

Mr. Lewis earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Accounting from Michigan State University and a master’s degree in finance from Wayne State University.

MARQUEZ WILSON

President, Wilson IT Solutions

WHAT IT TAKES TO DO BUSINESS AS A TIER 1, 2, AND 3 SUPPLIER

Thursday, June 11th - Panel Session @ 12:30 - 01:00PM CST

Marquez Wilson is President and founder of Wilson IT Solution (WITS), a privately held, nationally certified Minority Business Enterprise that was established with one goal in mind - helping companies grow their business!  Founded in 2007, WITS provided a complete IT outsourcing solution for small to mid-sized businesses (SMBs) allowing them to focus on their customers and core business while WITS managed their entire IT operation.  Those closest to him thought he was crazy to start a company in the middle of a recession, but survival of many SMBs during this time was dependent on lowering overall IT operational costs and he knew just how to do it!

 

In 2017, he launched a new portfolio of service offerings which included data conversions, program/project management, IT consulting services, and customized customer care solutions.  WITS' service offerings are backed by 20+ years of owner experience managing large-scale, complex programs both nationally and internationally for some of the top fortune 500 companies including AT&T, T-Mobile and US Cellular.  Marquez earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management Information Systems with a minor in Computer Science from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.  He is a die-hard Alabama fan ("Roll Tide") and has only missed one National Championship game since 2009 because he contracted the flu and bronchitis during the semi-final game in New Orleans.

 

Marquez also believes that successes do not come without being a blessing unto others.  Last year, WITS donated 100 backpacks with fully stocked school supplies to kids from his same low-income, childhood community that was instrumental in molding him into the man he is today.  He also participates in local charitable events that supports annual scholarships, mentoring programs, and seasonal donations for families and schools in need. When it's time for him to take a break, he enjoys throwing on the headsets and listening to neo-soul!